Sunday, December 29, 2013

bike calendars for 2014

Some folks just ride. In fact, Grant Peterson at Rivendell Bikes has written a whole book with that as the title (although I think he's a bit of a fraud about it). And if that's what you want to do, fine. As I so frequently say, if it ain't fun, don't bother.

But some of us like to keep track of our miles. I'm one of those. Two years ago, Winter Larry made available a calendar that added up your daily miles and totaled them, and I thought it was such a good idea that I made one up last year. I've done it again, and I'm linking to it for download. (It includes a second calendar page, because I also keep track of hours ridden. I did over seven work-weeks of riding this year.)

It's available in two formats. I use Libreoffice on my computers. It's a free office suite that includes the important stuff that comes with the home version of MS Office: a word processor, a spreadsheet, and a presentation program. Libreoffice will open all of the MS Office formats (although some of the really proprietary stuff doesn't work, but all the usual stuff does), and it will also open loads of less common formats. It does other stuff nicely, too, such as save to .pdf. Libreoffice is free, as in free speech, because a bunch of geeks write the code and look over each other's shoulders to make sure everything plays nicely together, and then they publish the code for anybody else to see... so less likelihood of viruses & malware. It's also free, as in free candy. WOO-HOO! Save yourself the Franklin and download Libreoffice; available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Libreoffice just works.

You can get the Libreoffice version of the calendar here.

If you've already wasted the cash on MS office, you can get the Excel version here. I set up the Excel version in Office 2003 format, because I know not all of you update every new version; it will open in Office 2010 & 2013. Get that version here.

A word on the file hosting: I use Dropbox, where you can upload your files and have them available on every computer that you link to your Dropbox account, so if you have many computers in the family, everybody can have access to the files in the Dropbox folder, and the files automatically update when edited. They also give you a "Public" folder where you can share files for download... for example, on your blog.

Edit: The efficient Elyssa M already had a link to such a thing on the Freewheeler site, and I missed it. Thanks for your efficiency, and sorry for my oversight, Elyssa!

Edit 2: A visitor to the Facebook Page uploaded one that will automatically adjust the year. You can get it on this page of the Freewheeler website.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

probable last ride of the year

Q: How many Freewheelers will go out for a ride on a sunny Saturday in December, when the temps ar supposed to get up to the low 50'sF?

A: At least 20.

Not all of them on the ride I went on, of course. Tom H, a favorite leader, had one in the list and put this on his blog about it:

The weather is still looking good for Saturday. It should be sunny and in mid 40s. We will meet at Etra park at 10 am. I'm planning an easy 40 mile loop to New Egypt. This will probably be the last ride of the year. Hope to see you there.
(Tom sometimes changes his announcements to ride reports, so if you go to the link, you may not see that text.)

Laura emailed me about adding some extra miles from Cranbury to Etra (well, sure! I'm in!). When I got to Cranbury, Peter F was waiting to lead his B+ ride (the B ride was scheduled to leave an hour later), and five went off with him (I think)... and we also saw Jud H and Neil C leave from Cranbury at about the same time. So that's seven, not including Laura and me.

We rode to Etra (a smidge under six miles) and met up with eight others (including Tom H) to do this ride. It wasn't memorable; it wasn't a new route, or to a new stop (although we learned that Scott's in New Egypt is under new management: an Indian or Pakistani-looking family who treated us much more pleasantly than I remember being treated in the past). But it was a bright, sunny ride, with a number of people I know; many of them I've ridden with a gajillion times and whom I like a lot. And that's a good enough day for me.

And on the way, we saw Sue M, Ron M, and a third I didn't catch. So that's at least 20 Freewheelers out today!(Edit: Subsequent events on the Freewheeler Facebook page indicated it was InfoGuy John P.)

There will be a new focus in this blog: I'm starting a label for "Bicycle fashion". You'll see why when you see Laura's arm warmers and Chris C's tights. Pic's below.

While I was waiting for Laura to get to Cranbury, I rode up Main St and saw this holiday display:

I don't know if you can see the signs; they say stuff like: "32,000 lights", "NOT Visible from Space", "Zoning Violations 75 yards". Two houses up is this:

You might not be able to tell from the picture, but the entire front lawn is covered in lights, and there are structures on the property with more lights. The street is festooned with traffic cones and "no parking" event signs. I'm sure the neighbors hate them.

When we got down to New Egypt, the bike shop next door had this suspension mountain-trick-bike as the "open" sign:

I suspect it's geared low enough to get up anything, but those little wheels might not be so good in the mud.


Al thinks I've going to forward the one above to Bob W. so Bob can torment him. I told Al I won't have to forward it: Bob can get it himself!

Check out the happenin' arm warmer on the bicep below:

...and those tights on Chris. Giraffe, or Holstein?

sherlock holmes & copyright

Long-time readers of this blog know that I've had some words about copyright. Our system is broken.

Here's another example. A judge in Illinois had to rule that Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain. But only those stories published prior to 1923; there are ten after that that are still under copyright.

Sheesh. Sherlock Holmes? How is that anything OTHER than public domain?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

small arms in the war on christmas

As we do for Wigilia, we went to the Excellent In-Laws' for Christmas Eve dinner, the singing of kolędy* and carols in English, and the distribution of presents among the family members. One of my sisters-in-law found this, probably at a church craft fair, and decided we needed one (another sister-in-law got a similar gift):

The back is no less remarkable:

When I was growing up, we had at least two of these: I remember one for Christmas, and another with a Barbie stuck in it; the crocheted part was a skirt for the doll.  It's a toilet-paper cozy:

We had no end of fun over this. Don't you think you need one? And don't you think it will feel right at home with some of our other decorations?

*I can read music reasonably well, and can hammer my way through Polish pronunciation like any other arrant noob, but the Excellent Parents-In-Law just love hearing their Anglo son-in-law fake his way through "Cuda Ogłasawą"

Sunday, December 22, 2013

warm, windy, wet (w)ride

We were, perhaps, tempting fate. But when the day after the winter solstice is predicted at over 70F, it was more than a few of the Hill Slugs could do not to try to get a ride in today, even with a 70-100% prediction of rain (depending on where you looked). Leader Laura OLPH, calculating perhaps a bit too closely, posted this on her blog after yesterday's ride:

The rain looks as if it's going to hold off long enough to get a short ride in tomorrow morning.  Again I have to be home before 11:00 a.m. so the ride will start from my house at 8:00 a.m.

Again, Ron S and I showed up. As you'll see in the pics below, even that early it was warm enough that Laura and Ron wore shorts and short-sleeved jerseys. I wore tights and long sleeves, but I shed the inner layer I had brought. Laura added to the festivity with moose antlers (you'll see 'em in the pics below). Laura had been texting back and forth with her friend, Dale, who could not believe we were going out with the weather prediction what it was, so she led us past Dale's house so we could wave to her.

We did this route. While we didn't have rain, we did have wind, and it was more southerly than usual (there's an old weather saying, "When the wind is in the South/The rain is in its mouth"). The wind wasn't strong enough to heel the bikes over, but it was enough to be a factor. As we cut through Mercer Park, the wind was at our backs, I remembered thinking, "This might be a problem on the way back." But as we proceeded, the wind was mostly on the right side, until we looped south and then took 526 back to Allentown. You'll see the inflatable Tweety Bird in the pics below, heeled over (in Laura's words) like a freshman after a frat party, from the wind. Laura complained that the moose antlers were like a sail catching all the wind.

We got to 539 before the rain started. It didn't rain all the way back, and it wasn't cold enough to interfere with shifting or braking, but it was heavy and the rain affected our pace and handling. I didn't remember it being this bad, but Laura and Ron told me the wind was blowing the rain into our faces (I just remember a certain amount of discomfort). To add insult to injury, or something, Laura had planned to come back on Gordon, but we saw "Detour" signs at Sharon. We forged ahead, but about a mile further on, there was mud, and earth-moving equipment, and we decided not to try to cross; we went back and picked up the upper part of Gordon from Bresnahan.

We kept pedaling... and about five miles from the end, I noticed the rhythmic bump from the back wheel that suggests low air. I decided I had enough to get back on, and it turned out to be... but only just. Back at Laura's, I rinsed off the bike at her hose (the rain had done a good job at rinsing the muck off, but then the rain stopped), and then I jumped in the car and blasted the heat all the way home. Now the shoes are full of newspaper (second batch) and the seatbag is draining.

Pics below:

Ron S in proper winter ride gear.

Laura, affixing the antlers to her helmet.

Laura, antlered. Although I didn't get a picture, the antlers have lights!

Tweety, after either strong wind or strong liquor.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

short, snowy (& foggy) slug ride

Last weekend, I had hoped to get a ride in, but weather and circumstance interfered. All this week I was watching the local NOAA weather site, which was predicting a 30%, then a 20% chance of rain for today, until this morning, when they apparently decided that the morning fog was going to be the worst of it (although, to be honest, the NOAA site is the "Chicken Little" of weather forecasters, always threatening the worst). I'd been emailing a few folks about rides, and decided to go out with Laura OLPH, who hasn't been on a bike in five-or-so weeks. She had a commitment for today, so this was to be a short ride, and I was alternately disappointed (hoping for a longer one) and relieved (because I've been letting my fitness slide; last week I weighed the most I have in three or four years).

Ron S came along, with his old bike. He's got a new Specialized with SRAM Red components, but his derailleur is one of that was caught up in the recent recall. The new bike has been tied up at the dealer for about two weeks; Ron thinks it's because he didn't buy the part from the dealer, and even though Ron arranged for the dealer to do some extra work to sweeten the deal, the recall doesn't appear to be at the top of the shop's priorities. The old bike isn't as hill-friendly as the new one, so Ron's condition on coming was "no bad hills", to which Laura adhered.

We did this route; it's a modification of a route she used to do in her early days at the club. Several times along the way, we checked the time and adjusted so that we could get a decent ride in, but still have Laura back in time.  The warmth of the day, and the humidity, meant the fog lasted to some extent throughout the ride, and my glasses and mirrors kept fogging up, except on a descent where the rush of air would clear things up... but the cost of the improved visibility was the cold!

It's not often I ride with snow on the ground (I don't like it under my wheels), and it was a pretty ride with the snow and fog. We passed a farm with cattle in the fog, and Laura and I got pictures.

Tomorrow threatens rain; if it comes, I'll be cleaning today's road grime off the bike, and if it doesn't come... well, maybe I'll make up for the short mileage from today.

Pics below:

Friday, December 20, 2013

jet bike

In the spirit of wicked excess.

(Yeah, it's stupid and dangerous. It's a mish-mosh of mismatched parts and barely-functional jury-rigging. But it looks like fun. And don't you love the look of that guy? The necktie with the work clothes is just great.)

More of his wonderfulness here (warning: he builds grand stuff, but he's barely literate).

does it play vinyl?

...because I also built MY desktop computer. And I also have grey hair. And in this age of black-box, can't-tweak-'em laptops/tablets/phones, nobody has ANY IDEA what goes on in their computers*.

Of course it's too small. Original here. (I've had a link to Diesel Sweeties forever over there on the right; have you been keeping up?)

*I understand some of you younger folk are losing basic computer skills like not downloading  files from strangers, or the ability to tweak your settings, to say nothing of hacking an operating system. I sneer at the younger generation.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

ezra jennings on the rich and job creation

Jennings said, "I've seen a lot of self-congratulatory balderdash about how the rich are job-creators. Well, right now we have the biggest disparity between the rich and everybody else that the country has ever seen, probably. At the same time, we have the fewest good middle class jobs."

He continued, "As far as I can see, the rich only create menial, service jobs... and not many of those."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

posted on my door at work

"If I could work my will," said Scrooge indignantly, "every idiot who goes around with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!"
I don't actually believe that, of course. But I think that the opposition needs a voice.

Original here.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

minor skirmish in the war on christmas

While on her recent trip abroad, Laura OLPH passed "a window full of ornaments that are just completely wrong.  I apologize for ending the blog with this and potentially causing you nightmares." I, on the contrary, expressed my delight in the awfulness.

Laura evidently read that as a challenge; she came back with an ornament which she was sure would be beyond the pale, even for me. It IS arresting:

It's a Santa, with artist's beret, painting on an easel, with an Eiffel Tower behind. However, without batting an eye, The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I added it to our collection. Not all of our ornaments are this excellent (I admit I'm cherry-picking the best), but this Santa joins these:

It's a Santa on a rooster. (Why?)

One of the angel atop the Christmas tree. She's evidently more human than she looks; the caption reads, "How would you like a bush up your tush?"

Not on the tree, but on the windowsill nearby: Santa on a rocking horse with a New York Mets logo.

The obligatory "Couple's first Christmas" (which was given to us on our second Christmas. Oh, dear...) And one of my favorites, my abstract expressionist ornament:

Sunday, December 15, 2013

road party ii

Dave H, who also sent me the link to the first one, sent me this link to Road Party II, a video of some excellent riders showing off skills other than speed on their road bikes:

As I implied a few days ago, I'm impressed by virtuosity. I ain't gettin' out to ride in all the ice and snow, so this will give me something to look at for a few minutes to mitigate my gargantuan self-pity.

Edit: I just received an email from another friend Dave, Dave C, about Martin Ashton, one of the riders in this video. He said that Ashton was paralyzed from the waist after an accident at Brands Hatch Silverstone this past summer.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

calories burned while biking

With nothing much else to do today, I was clicking through the other bike club links on the Princeton Freewheelers website to see which of the other clubs linked have some rides posted online. Of ALL of the club sites listed, in five states (totaling about thirty: some of the sites are race teams or other specialty sites), only two do NOT have at least some rides listed online: Doubles of the Garden State and the Shore Cycle Club. Even the gay club, Outbike NJ, has some rides listed... although they're from 2012.

Grump, grump, grump. The Freewheelers really is the unfriendliest, most demanding club in the Middle Atlantic. I don't have time now to get on the board to agitate to change this (I'm on my condo board, and I'm trying to be the voice of individual freedom against the voices of thoughtless conformity), but I do intend to go to a board meeting and ask to be able to say I represent the club when I contact the half-dozen nearest-by clubs about what software they use to list rides online, and whether they had any unforeseen problems when they did so (or foreseen problems, for that matter).

But that's not why I'm writing this post.

Also among the links was this Calculator for Calories Burned While Biking. (I originally had it in the body of this post and in the right sidebar, but having it on the page twice seemed to be giving the browsers indigestion.. so scroll down and see it in the lower right.)

I think it's pretty cool. They included the code, and Blogger let me add it as a widget on the right side of the page. So if you want to check your calories burned, come on over to Seeming Verb, plug in the numbers, and go.

(You can lie about your weight if you want to. I won't tell. I won't even know!)

not so dolce far niente time

The weather indicates no ride today, I've got no good project to work on, I'm gaining weight. Grump, grump, grump. I've got nothing else to do but waste time on the internet. This was from today's Oddman. Made me laugh, because I'm always thinking I'm old (The Excellent Wife [TEW] thinks I'm obsessed, and she may be right).

I may be reduced to cleaning off my desk, and the side table in the front room.

("Dolce far niente"? Go look it up.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

windy solo ride

Tom H was leading a ride today, but it was only 40 miles and it started way the h-ll down in Bordentown, Burlington County. I was too lazy to pack and drive for that short ride, so instead I did this one, solo through Princeton from home, on a route that Dave H showed me some time ago. It was both hillier than I remembered (over 1600' of climb in the 30 miles; the link goes to RideWithGPS because I think they might be more reliable for elevations) and windier than I was ready for today.

While this wasn't a quick one, it was a good ride for other reasons. First, I saw a few other people out riding today: three on the roads, and a few of the Major Taylors at the Main St Café, which they seem to have adopted as their home base. I chatted a bit with the guys (yes, all guys) on the roads, including shouting a joke at an amused-looking Asian gentleman, older than I, who may have as much English as I have Korean (or whatever he was). When there are this few people out, and you run across 'em, I think you're required by common humanity to share a couple of words with 'em.

The other reason that this was a good ride is that I got into a para-meditative state, and started thinking about stuff like who I need to forgive (or ask forgiveness from), about how there are so many people I don't even know how to talk to, and about a number of my sins; I've either got to give 'em up or make better rationalizations for 'em.


Yesterday, we went to the Léger show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We've rarely been to a show there we didn't like, and this was another good one... but that's not what prompted me to put up this post.

As they always do, museum staff included work by other artists: people Léger knew, people who influenced him. They included in the show two advertising posters by "Cassandre", the pseudonym of Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron

Well, I'm smitten. I've set one as my computer desktop, and I might have found an alternative to bike lug porn for my drooling pleasure. I can't get enough of this guy.

He had a great look in person, too:

I should ever be that cool.

Friday, December 6, 2013

feds will stop hyping effectiveness of bike helmets

Freewheeler John S has brought to my attention this article from Greater Greater Washington (no, the duplication is not a typo) that says that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will remove from their websites statements that helmets prevent 85% of head injuries.

First, these statements were based on a single study in 1985 and subsequent studies have not been able to replicate anything close to that high number. "Some studies even found that helmets increase the risk of neck injuries".

Second, such statements do little to promote safety, but they discourage bike sharing and other uses of bicycles for short trips (links in this sentence from the original article, q.v.[which means go read the d-mn article yourself]).

Further, there's the concern that people who ride with helmets take risks that they would not take without the helmet on (although I was not able to find actual evidence for this).

Finally, from the article:

Recently, most helmet research has focused on making helmets cool, rather than more protective. Better ventilation and more fashionable designs might encourage more people to buy and wear helmets, but it does not make them safer. Could that be because everyone is assuming that helmets are already 85% effective? Would that change if people thought helmets were less than 50% effective?

Helmet use has become a religion with some riders, with about as much science-based thought and about as much room for persuasion as some people have about religion. I don't always wear a helmet on short rides, although I do on club rides.

A subsequent comment on the original Facebook posting, by Jerry F., said:
  1. Wear your helmet!
  2. Ride like you're not wearing a helmet!
To which I would only add, do the second even when you're not doing the first.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

people in cities smarter

Last month, I posted a bit from a daily email I get about how people in cities are happier and more productive than our rural counterparts. It turns out we're smarter, too:

In the average U.S. county with less than one person per acre, 15.8 percent of adults have college degrees. In the average county with more than two people per acre, 30.6 percent of adults have college degrees.

It confirms a suspicion I've had. As I said in that post, I grew up with the "rural is good, urban is bad" mantra, and it's good to see that real research puts that to the lie.

(The point of the original email, though, is that online interactions don't replace in-person contact. I wasn't sure if that was the case; now I know.)

Here's the link to the archived email. You can sign up for the daily email on that same page.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

grueling ride with winter larry

Today's ride was exhausting, for a reason I would not have predicted.

After the ride yesterday, while I wanted to get out, I didn't want to work too hard, and I hoped to see some folks I knew... so I went to Cranbury for Winter Larry's ride (and I didn't add miles; goo thing, too!). We had ten, as you'll see below; one was a leader who had cancelled his own ride for today. When I asked him why, he said that on his slower ride, he often had to wait, and, as it was cold today, he didn't want to freeze while waiting at stops. I was impressed by his honesty!

We had not one, but two recumbents today; Andrew had his, and a newer rider brought one with a full fairing, including a fabric zip-in arrangement around the back. You'll see it in the pictures below, including an inside-the-cockpit shot.

However, one of our number was much slower than the rest. We took turns keeping an eye on that rider, although I did a lot of it, as I had promised Larry I would sweep. I had no idea that going that slow today would be so exhausting. You'll see from the route that Larry decided after part of the way back to simply re-do the route out; he thought that if the one slow rider dropped off the back, the route home would at least be familiar. By the end, though, we took the most direct route we knew, and split into three groups by speed. Larry was good enough to lead the slow rider the last bit by himself; I simply couldn't do it after a while - I was that exhausted. (And I now know I can keep the Yellow Maserati upright on an uphill at 3.6mph.)

Pics below: